As If Norway Wasn't Far Enough
Gony Zubizarreta and Marlon Lipke set out on foot looking to score in Scandinavia.
What started as a two-day slab strike to Oslo, Norway, turned into a proper adventure for wandering European standouts Gony Zubizarreta and Marlon Lipke, a ten-hour hike through treacherous terrain with the promise of a remote cold water Shangri-La.
Gony and Marlon got invited by Lapoint Surf Camps, to Norway's reportedly slab-riddled south-east coast. A few dry rock kegs a boat's ride off the beaten path, with a rare groundswell in the water, and they'd be trading beers in the streets of Oslo by evening. It looked all-time, but got off to a rocky start, the engine going out one hour into the mission, the boys dragging the broken dingy several clicks, paddling in and around the islands off the coast.
When we eventually gathered at the slab, they quickly realized it was unsurfable. Wrong swell direction, a couple feet too big. We ditched our first choice, to try to salvage the mission, moving over to a promising, if daunting left a couple of hundred meters away.
Makable from afar, far from makable.
Cold European comfort with Gony Zubizarreta.
Gony Zubizarreta having a crack.
Gony took off on a mid-sized wave, kicked out just before it closed out on dry rocks. We laid down the rough draft for another, much better prepared, strike mission to this cold-water paradise.
Over beers later that evening we checked the forecast and spotted an incoming swell far out, a north Atlantic hurricane improbably sending swell directly our way. We downed our beers, headed back to repack the car and start driving. Pull up a map of the Norwegian coastline and you’ll soon realize it’s far from the Seven-Mile Miracle, but rather a rugged landscape, winding roads, mountain passes, cold ferries. We found ourselves driving all day and night to reach our slot under the mountain. We leaned back and grabbed a couple of hours on the eye, before starting the trek over the mountain to what we thought was a setup worthy of a proper mission.
While most surfing in Norway done today is a rather comfortable affair, with parking lots, web cams, surf shops, cafes close by for post surf bites and coffee, there are many unbeaten paths like the one the boys headed out for on the day the hurricane swell arrived. The time showing 02:50AM, in total darkness, packs filled with water, food and dry clothes, we began the hike, kicking off with a steep 4-kilometer ascent, followed by a muddy and oft-hidden path.
Gony Zubizarreta and Marlon Lipke, headlams and a hunch.
Gony Zubizarett and Marlon Lipke, making their way, slowly.
Strike mission or hike mission, you never know until you go.
Hiking in Norway in late fall can be a blissful thing, but under night's endless rural darkness, heavy winds and rain, you’re left with a test of stamina and determination, and that’s without carrying boards and equipment that’ll act as sails in the wind. We reached the top of the mountain after several hours hiking, looked down over the valley, and over totally flat ocean, with what seemed like heavy onshore winds and only some whitewater around a big boulder in the middle of the lineup. Did we miss a forecast update? Read it wrong? Did we just have too much faith in our spot-finding-skills? Having come this far though we decided to trek down the mountainside and eat our sandwiches before hiking back with our tails between our legs.
Down in the bay, between huge boulders and mountains, a small set began wrapping into the bay, breaking right off the rocks, just as we unwrapped the first sandwich. We rubbed our eyes as another set broke 5 minutes later, cutting the lunch break short and forcing Gony and Marlon to suit up and paddle for a couple of small and fun waves, rewarding themselves for the effort put in.
The first sets were small, but after surfing for about 15 minutes the outside cliffs spat out a massive spray, signalling an incoming set. Gony paddled in front for the outside, spun around and took off a bit late - just as surprised as us of the sudden set off properly sized waves. He put down five turns, kicked out, and saw Marlon already starting to slice up the next one. When he was finished in the shallows everything explodes into cheering, or rather more screaming.
Steep and four hours deep.
A regularfooter's Norwegian playground.
Somewhere in the Norwegian Sea.
After a four hour hike, a little rock dance on the cobblestone point was the least of their worries.
The wave turned out to be a proper right-hander, offering enough for several maneuvers, though we were sure that with a little less water and a bigger swell, there would also have some big tube sections on offer. Gony and Marlon traded waves for two hours before the tide caught up with them and sent them in, cramped up and stoked out of their minds.
We stuffed our faces with the remaining crackers and began on the steep, wet and windy hike out of the bay. As we reached the top of the first plateau the ocean said goodbye with a final set of waves, telling us to come back a day not too long into the future.
Wet, tired and cramped up we carried ourselves back over the mountain, this time with the wind in our faces. Having made the previous trek in the dark, we now saw the immense landscape and the hills, cliffs and paths we had previously traversed, only to be amazed by our energy level and determination in the morning. We ended up hiking about 20 kilometres up and down the wet terrain, and it was a 18 hour mission in total, surfing making up two of those.
We finally reached the car and began the long drive home, while getting our heads around what just happened. The spot probably has a narrow swell window and turns on every second full moon. We knew we had just struck a big pot of gold and that we were probably never going to experience anything like it ever again.
How many hidden European gems grace Norway's sprawling coast?
"Wet, tired and cramped up we carried ourselves back over the mountain, this time with the wind in our faces."